, Volume 20, Issue 10, pp 833-838

Collecting Saliva by Mail for Genetic and Cotinine Analyses in Participants Recruited through the Internet

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The authors assessed whether collection by mail of saliva and buccal cells for genetic analysis was feasible in participants recruited through the Internet. In 2003, 14,773 visitors of a smoking cessation website were invited by e-mail to take part in the study. Salivettes (plastic vials containing a cotton roll) were mailed to participants, for collection of saliva and buccal cells. Because of limited resources, the authors stopped recruitment when 392 participants (3% of 14,733) were registered. They received 315 saliva samples back (80% of 392). Salivary cotinine was analyzed in 145 daily smokers. Cotinine concentration could be assessed in 141 samples (97%) (range 0.7–899 ng/ml, median 260 ng/ml). DNA extraction was achieved in all the 285 samples in which it was attempted. Quality of DNA was assessed by optical density measurements and by polymerase chain reaction amplification of a gene coding for the α-4 nicotinic receptor, with the detection of a known polymorphism. Successful results were obtained in 235 samples (82% of 285). Thus collecting saliva by mail for cotinine and DNA analysis in participants recruited through the internet produced samples of good quality at a reasonable cost. This approach should be valuable for genetic epidemiology and pharmacogenetic research.